In retrospect 2022 was the hardest year. The best summary is that it ends much better than it began.
Hong Kong spent the first half of the year in the kind of pointlessly strict lockdowns we’d thought finished. Despite having the highest death rate per capita, proving the futility, the government kept the economy and borders largely shut until April. It was a hard time to be once again unemployed. The optimism that had risen with vaccines and the prior year’s travel faded as we were ever more cut off from the world’s re-opening.
The spring did offer a few specific joys, highlighted by Tara’s success at work and my own ability to freelance for US companies. Being able to recommend and hire friends and former colleagues in China has been a wonderful side effect of the closed borders.
The pandemic ended suddenly for me in April, on boarding a flight to Ireland for a new job. Getting paid once again to go to new countries and learn proved that the world I missed so much was not truly dead. Until it happened, I hadn’t realized how doubtful I’d been. Kinsale was beautiful, and Dublin likewise. Meeting new colleagues in the US afterwards was a pleasure. Being able to see my folks in Ithaca and friends in Brooklyn on the layover from Ireland to SF was exactly the kind of gift that used to be so commonplace. I’d forgotten how good that kind of surprise opportunity felt.
Most importantly, I made it back and then through quarantine (1 week) and Covid (caught in Hong Kong despite the quarantine) before Tara gave birth. Clara is healthy and napping as I write this. It’s cliche to say she’s changed our lives, and yet.
After eight months of struggling with our plan for the future, in September we resolved to stay in Hong Kong and live like we wanted the world to be. We moved (one block) and went to Thailand in the three weeks before Tara’s maternity leave ended. It was wonderful, both walking on the beach in a foreign country and having Hanna join us from Colorado. We may have eaten breakfast at the same well-loved French cafe in Bangkok every day of our visit. Seeing that places we miss had survived the pandemic was a truly wonderful feeling. And Hong Kong, in what would prove to be a turning point, dropped inbound quarantine while we were on the road. Clara has never done a hotel quarantine. I hope I can say the same for her next year.
After Tara’s promotion and the ensuing grind of October, made more difficult by my work trip to the Bay Area, we needed another vacation. Japan, finally re-opened, was a perfect finale to our year. We saw old friends and new while doing plenty of wandering with a baby attached. Clara loved the onsen and tatami floors, so now she has her own. Tatami, not an onsen. Feeling comfortable on the road these last two trips has reminded us of who we used to be, and still are: people who aim to be comfortable anywhere. They also made keeping this list again a pleasure.
The places below then are a mishmash of memories, some hard, some joyful. Spending a weekend in Oakland with Kevin was a wonderful gift, as were the two visits, not reflected, by Tara’s folks to Hong Kong.
As always, here’s to the next year. May we be less scared to try and may our bravery be rewarded.
Tai Hang, HK
Central, HK (staycation)
SF, CA (three spots, one twice)
Tsim Sha Tsui, HK (quarantine)
Lumphini, Bangkok, Thailand
Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand
Walnut Creek, CA
Haneda, Tokyo, Japan
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan (two spots)
Prior lists visible here.